Hello everyone. I have been thinking about the box office regarding animation (especially animation companies), and how each studio is doing financially. There is so many factors in regards to the box office in the animation industry, and it all ties down to an appealing formula that either works, or does not work. Might as well get the smaller companies out of the way.
Warner Animation Group
As we all know, Warner Bros. Feature Animation went on a major overhaul after their films continued to flop in 2003, and came back into the animation game a decade later, with 2014’s The Lego Movie. It ended up making $469.2 million worldwide. Their second film under Warner Animation Group named Storks ended up making $180.3 million worldwide. What is obvious to me is that they had huge faith in The Lego Movie, since they planned many sequels and spinoffs for it, which the success of the film only validated. Storks came in and out of theaters with little to no buzz or fanfare, but because the budget was so small, they were probably able to recoup some money from it. Looking at their release schedule, they released one film in 2014, and one last year, but they are picking up the quantity. There are two films that are being released this year, and two that are being released next year, so they are clearly benefiting financially enough to be able to make those amount of films at once.
Blue Sky Studios
I am shocked to learn that they only released 11 films under their canon, and 5 of them were in the 2000s era (with 3/5 of the films being Ice Age films). The increase in quantity of the films that have been released in the 2010s are due to the success of the second and third films. The first film released in this decade was Rio, which made almost $500 million in the box office, spawning another franchise for Blue Sky. The fourth Ice Age film made almost $900 million in the box office. They became more reliant on franchises when Rio 2 would make $500 million, and the fifth Ice Age would make $400 million, while original films like Epic would make over $250 million, and the Peanuts Movie would make just under $250 million. What I got from this is that the franchises are where most of their finances come from, while a lot of their original films do not perform very strongly. Blue Sky NEVER releases more than one film a year, but I have noticed that the budgets for their films are getting larger. What I find interesting is that the next three films are original films, so it seems like they are taking a slight break from franchises. This might be a make or break situation for Blue Sky.
Sony Pictures Animation
Sony is another company that is reliant on franchises, and while none of their films are huge blockbusters, it is enough to sustain the company. Interestingly enough, there were a few films that came out before Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs that only made a bit over $100 million (Open Season and Surf’s Up) in the late 2000s. Cloudy was turned into a franchise for the 2010, as the second film made $274 million in 2014. Since it was still not high enough, focus was put on another franchise called Hotel Transylvannia, which made over $350 million in 2012, and almost $500 million in 2015, with a third film in production. None of the original films in the 2010s made $200 million or more, so they are clearly relying on franchises; hoping another one will grow outside of Hotel Transylvannia.
They only make a film every few years, and are one of the only studios to exclusively focus on stop-motion animation. In the 2010s, their films made less than $150 million each (Arthur Christmas; $147 million in 2011, Pirates!; $123 million in 2012, Shaun the Sheep; $106 million in 2015). They were a lot more successful in the 2000s with DreamWorks, but the creative differences made the deal unbearable. They are one of the only studios to not rely on franchises to keep the money flowing, which clearly is not one top priority, but there is a sequel to Shaun the Sheep in production.
Illumination Entertainment epitomize the underdog story in the 2010s. Their first film Despicable Me made a bit under $550 million worldwide, and instantly created a franchise around it. Because the next film in the franchise will take a few years, more original works needed to be released, and the films Hop and Dr. Lorax did not perform well at all. Spinoff Minions made a billion dollars, and both Despicable Me sequels made under $900 million. They quickly received the respect of the moviegoing audience, and a wide following equivalent to Pixar, DreamWorks, and WDAS in only a few years. 2016 proved that they can release blockbusters that are original films, as both The Secret Life of Pets and Sing made similar amount of money as the other Illumination films. Illumination has a set formula regarding their marketing and moviemaking, which is clearly working. It seems like some of the others are copying them.
The financial state of this company in the 2000s have been well documented on the blog for years now, and there have been some areas in the 2010s that I have not discussed. As one franchise ended or so we thought (Shrek), another one started (How to Train Your Dragon), with both films making about $500 million. Franchise additions like Puss in Boots, Shrek Forever After, and Madagascar 3 were HUE box office successes, while their more original output like Megamind performed mediocre with $322 million. Overall, the first few years of the decade were strong for the studio, but things fell apart in 2013 with Rise of the Guardians. While some of the films have a decent amount of money, the HUGE budget overcompensated it, turning them into flops. The 3 film-formula that DreamWorks was accustomed to had failed, and in 2015, decided to release 1-2 films a year. Ever since 2015, there has not been financial problems reported, and the studio slowly became more profitable. Two franchises have already been confirmed to be in the works (Trolls and The Boss Baby), though Captain Underpants is one of the worst performing films in their canon.
Pixar Animation Studios
Despite their critical reception going down a bit in the 2000s, they are still dominating the box office for the most part. Toy Story 3 started off the decade with making a billion dollars (which they would hit again with Finding Dory last year). All of the films performed really well, with almost all of them making over $500 million, but The Good Dinosaur barely made $300 million worldwide, and it’s huge budget caused them to actually lose money because of it. A lot of people are contributing that the sequel-itis is damaging their reputation, but it has proven to be extremely successful financially, and people clearly still trust Pixar enough to watch their films in theaters.
Walt Disney Animation Studios
A HUGE turnaround came from Disney in this decade, compared to the 2000s, where they suffered financial loss after financial loss. Tangled started the decade with almost $600 million, and traditional animation was officially put to death with Winnie the Pooh’s poor performance. Franchises (which was something the studio steered clear of for decades) were started with Wreck-it Ralph and the billion dollar Frozen. Like Pixar, WDAS hit 2 billion dollar films, with the second being Zootopia. It is very clear to say that Disney (both studios) are dominating in the box office. Disney has been known for never doing franchises, so the fact that they are doing some now is a bit worrying about the need for a sense of formula regarding the industry.
What I realized is that it is getting tougher and tougher for newer companies to make a profit from the ever-growing animation industry. Despite some of the films these studios release not being much of a success, they decide to make franchises from it to create an identity for the entire studio, since it creates a sense of familiarity. A part of it is that many of these studios are trying to copy and continue threads familiar to the audience for financial stability, and that could have the expected result, or the opposite to the point where people won’t watch it. What needs to be done is that these studios try a few more risks, and not worry too much about what their competitors are doing, since it makes so many of them interchangeable. But at the same time, the only hing the box office shows is the amount of people who watched it, which calculates into the amount of money it made; not whether people liked it or not. At the same time, some of the top companies have more room to be more creative, while others don’t.